CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
After watching this agonizing death, Mary was cut off from the presence of her beloved son. For three days, her only son was dead, and her heart ached tremendously.
But at the end of these three days, when she first saw her son after his Resurrection, can you fathom the overwhelming joy? My heart wells up at the thought, but it is surely nothing in comparison to the joy that overflowed from hers at the sight of him.
This was not the first time Mary had to endure separation from her son. Twenty years before, when the Holy Family went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, Jesus stayed behind in the Temple to do his Father’s work. It took Mary and Joseph three anxious days to find their son.
Mary was deeply affected by her son’s decision to stay behind, asking him, “Why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48 RSV) Despite the pain that Mary felt in that moment, Christ knew what he was doing in allowing her to suffer this short period of separation. He did this to prepare her for the even more painful separation she would experience after his death. And the joy she felt upon finding him was likewise a taste of the immense joy she would feel upon seeing him again after his resurrection.
Just as this separation from the child Jesus prepared Mary for her separation from him at his death, those three days of Christ being dead prepared Mary for when Jesus would return to heaven and she would again be apart from the physical presence of her son.
It is indeed hard to imagine what Mary experienced in these cases, but we can understand a fraction of what she felt through our own experiences. I especially reflect on these instances at this time of the year because this is a time of “goodbyes.”
Currently, we have a couple weeks left of school, and once we get through the papers and finals, we must say goodbye to our friends for a few months. For me, these few months can be really hard as I miss my friends and the convenience of talking to them in person.
Just as God prepared Mary for the separation after Christ’s Passion with the separation after Passover 20 years prior, so also can we view the little time of separation from our friends over break as practice for the separation that will come eventually once we have to say goodbye to some of our friends for a substantially longer time after graduation.
Some of you have already reached this point and are about to go out into the world following God’s call for you, even if it takes you far from your friends and everything you are comfortable with. I commend you for your bravery in following God’s will, and though I know I will get there eventually, I also know that I am glad I still have a couple years to be prepared.
Even though these separations that we face now are nothing compared to what Mary went through, they are still significant in our lives. Not only do they help us to relate in a less drastic way to Mary, but they also show us God’s providence even in the pain.
God prepares us for each step in our lives with lesser events that come before. So even in this case of separation from our friends, God is involved and guiding us. Despite the little pain we may feel in the moment, God knows what he is doing in allowing us to suffer this short period of separation because it will prepare us for the longer ones to come.
And eventually, there will be a last time we see each of our friends on Earth, even if we are unaware at the time. Fortunately though, just as in Mary and Jesus’ story, this “goodbye for good” is not actually the end.
After Christ’s Resurrection, Mary did not get to keep him for long. He ascended into heaven, and Mary stayed on Earth. She again had to endure a period of separation, but when she joined her son in heaven, the joy upon her arrival must have been even greater.
Likewise with us, there will be a last time we see our friends on earth, and we’ll have to be separated from those whom we love for a period. But as we see with Mary and Jesus, that won’t be the final goodbye because we will be reunited in heaven, and the joy will be even greater in the presence of God.